Submit to Your Government
1 Peter • Sermon • Submitted • Presented • 13:49
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Submit to Your Government Peter has a lot to tell us on how to live in this world. Last week we studied 1 Peter 2:12 which says: Live such good lives among the pagans that, though they accuse you of doing wrong, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day he visits us. We are to live good lives so that those who do not know Jesus as Savior can observe our good works and be drawn to Him. But what kind of good behavior did Peter have in mind? Peter proceeds to discuss our relationships, how we treat others. And the common factor he calls for in all relationships is submission. In the next verse, verse 13, he begins: Submit yourselves for the Lord's sake to every authority ... What is submission? Vine calls it "a military term" meaning "to rank under". The private submits to the sergeant. The sergeant submits to the lieutenant, etc. More generally, it means to voluntarily make ourselves subject to another. It means to allow another to take the lead, to take charge of a situation or activity. It also means to obey legitimate authority. Submission is an expression of the attitude of humility, not thinking that we deserve to be in control of everything. To whom then are we to submit. Peter gives us several answers. In 2:18: Slaves, submit yourselves to your masters with all respect." We apply that by submitting on the job. In 3:1: Wives, in the same way be submissive to your husbands. Before you ladies get too upset, listen to what he adds in 3:7: Husbands, in the same way be considerate as you live with your wives. While he did not use the word submission for the husbands, he did say in the same way. And when Paul tells wives to be submissive in Ephesians 5, it is after he says we are all to be submissive to one another. So, husbands are to be submissive too. In 5:5a, Peter says: Young men, in the same way be submissive to those who are older. Then he adds: All of you, clothe yourselves with humility toward one another. As we said, submission is an expression of humility. But Peter begins by emphasizing submission to governing authorities. Let us read all of 2:13 with verse 14: Submit yourselves for the Lord's sake to every authority instituted among men: whether to the king, as the supreme authority, or to governors, who are sent by him to punish those who do wrong and to commend those who do right. As we consider these verses, we will keep the parallel teaching of Paul in Romans 13:1-7 in mind. First, what is the nature of human government? The word instituted in our text literally means created. Man creates government. It is a human creation. But that is not the whole story. Paul says in Romans 13:1, that the authority of government is established by God. In verse 2, Paul adds: He who rebels against the authority is rebelling against what God has instituted (a different word meaning appointed). Human government, though created by man, is part of God's plan, authorized by Him. So, we submit to government for the Lord's sake (as v. 13 says), not because human created government is always right, for it is not. Then, what is the purpose of human government? Peter gives two purposes in verse 14 which parallel what Paul teaches in Romans 13:3, 4. Government is to punish those who do wrong. When there is no restraint, sinful man will produce chaos. Just look at our cities where the police have not been allowed to restrain the mobs. But government is also to commend those who do right. When possible, government should encourage good behavior and not just restrain bad behavior. One more question: What should be the extent of our submission? Peter's words suggest that we should submit to all levels of government. Most of your direct contact with government will be at the local level where we must submit in person. Also, we are to submit regardless of the quality of leadership because we do it for the Lord's sake. But in passages such as Acts 4:18-20 and Acts 5:27-29, we see that the authority of God and His word supersedes that of government. When there is a choice between obeying God or obeying government, God wins. However, this does not give us license to ignore government any time we disagree. Paul told Titus (3:1): Remind the people to be subject to rulers and authorities. And we are to pay taxes even if we dislike how they are being used. In Romans 13:6, Paul writes: This is why you pay taxes, for the authorities are God's servants. If God does not approve of their service, it is His task to deal with them. Yet if Paul or Peter was writing to Americans today, they would tell us to vote and to vote wisely. In 1 Peter 2:15, he explains why God wants us to submit. For it is God's will that by doing good you should silence the ignorant talk of foolish men. People who speak against God are foolish and senseless, displaying their spiritual ignorance. As we submit and do good, other people will see this ignorance as foolishness. God will use our well-doing to muzzle the foolish. (That is the literal meaning here, to muzzle.) God does this through public humiliation for foolishness, sometimes even using the government to commend us, as He did with Mordecai in the book of Esther. Doing good is a more powerful influence than mere protest. Back in verse 12, Peter told us to live such good lives among the pagans. Listen to how he now develops this in verses 16 and 17: Live as free men, but do not use your freedom as a cover-up for evil; live as servants of God. Show proper respect to everyone: Love the brotherhood of believers, fear God, honor the king. Let us start with verse 17 which emphasizes submissive relationships: Show proper respect to everyone: Love the brotherhood of believers, fear God, honor the king. This verse has what is called a chiastic structure. Chiasms order ideas in the pattern A B B A. The first and last ideas go together as do the two middle ideas. The first and last here, everyone and the king, both relate to the world outside the church. The middle two, brotherhood and God, are spiritual entities that make up the church. The first and last verbs, show respect and honor, which are the same verb in Greek, are moderate words of submission. The middle verbs, love (agapao, love like God's love) and fear (to reverence as holy), are high intensity words of submission. The first two terms, everyone and brotherhood, deal with people. The last two terms, God and king, refer to sovereign authorities. The message of this verse clearly concerns how we are to relate to others and to authority. Show honor and respect to all people, deserving or not. Give fervent, unconditional love to all fellow Christians. Always give you reverence, respect, and worship to God. Show lesser but fitting honor to the king (president, governor, mayor, etc.), no matter who it is. Let us go back to verse 16 to conclude: Live as free men, but do not use your freedom as a cover-up for evil; live as servants of God. Whatever the form of government, Christians are free. This is a threat to totalitarian governments and to any leaders who seek full control. Christ has set us free. In Galatians 5:1, Paul writes: It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery. Yet we are to submit to government, even when it is ungodly. Why? Our freedom is not to be a cloak hiding rebellion and other fleshly evils. We have been freed from slavery to sin to serve God, not to serve our pleasures. And God will be served and honored as we submit to authority, especially government because our submission will be seen by all. So, how are we to use our freedom? Peter here says: Live as servants of God. In Galatians 5:13, Paul says: Do not use your freedom to indulge the sinful nature, rather, serve one another in love. We have been set free to serve God and to serve one another. We can now live with healthy relationships: by having a humble attitude, by submitting to one another and to authority, and by serving one another in God's love. So, how are you doing? Do you willingly submit to and obey authority, especially that of God, but also that of government? Do you honor everyone and fervently love all believers? Does your behavior silence critics of the church? Do you fear God living in awe of His holiness? Do you willingly serve Him by serving others?